Town Hall Debate Echoes with Economic Concerns

Katherine Britton | News & Culture Editor | Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Town Hall Debate Echoes with Economic Concerns

October 7, 2008

As the Dow dropped another 500 points yesterday, Sens. McCain and Obama were forced to put almost every answer of the town hall-style debate in perspective of the economic crisis.

Obama returned to a common theme, blaming the “failed economic policies of the last eight years” with their record deficits and increased national debt. He chalked up alternate sources of energy as a first priority during an economic downturn, followed by affordable healthcare and competitive education.

"We are in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression," Obama said. "I believe this is a final verdict on the failed economic policies of the last eight years, strongly promoted by President Bush and supported by Senator McCain." 

McCain shot back that “nailing down Sen. Obama's various tax proposals is like nailing Jello to the wall,” as the two argued their respective impacts on small businesses.

McCain also added a major proposal of his own to stem foreclosures, saying that the treasury secretary should buy up bad mortgages and renegotiate them for Americans struggling to make their mortgage payments.

"It's my proposal. It's not Senator Obama's proposal. It's not President Bush's proposal," he said. Questions about the cost of such a move, however, were fleeting.

Healthcare rose in importance as the debate continued, as Obama claimed affordable healthcare as a “right” for all Americans, while McCain defended it as a “responsibility.”

Obama continued Biden’s attack from the vice-presidential debate, arguing that McCain’s $5,000 tax credit and removal of state barriers would actually result in poorer coverage.

McCain responded that Obama would “mandate” small employers cover employees and parents their children or get fined, besides allowing government a larger role.

When the debate turned to foreign policy, both candidates avoided calling Russia “an evil empire,” as moderator Tom Brokaw asked. Both, however, called for penalties due to Russia’s aggressive actions, and support for former Soviet nations.

Obama reiterated his position that if Pakistan was “unwilling or unable” to take out terrorists in its mountains, then the United States should strike unilaterally if necessary. McCain pointed to what he called the Iraq strategy of gaining the government’s and people’s favor before striking. Both called for stronger engagement in Afghanistan. Obama challenged that Iraq continues to be a “distraction” to nabbing al-Qaeda operatives.

Throughout the debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., McCain asked voters to look at “records” in leadership and bipartisanship. Obama pushed McCain’s association with President Bush and the need for “fundamental change.”